Moving Beijing’s townhall to Tongzhou: new stakes at the metropolitan scale
It has been declared this summer that part of Beijing’s town hall administrative services would be transferred to Tongzhou, one of Beijing’s city satellites. This announcement supports persistent rumours broadcast by Chinese social media. Indeed, as some village houses in the east of Beijing were destroyed, real estate speculation in Tongzhou began to seriously rise. Despite restrictions on property purchase, the revenues have increased by 7.5% since the beginning of the year.
This decision stems from several issues. Firstly, the project aims at easing Beijing’s “urban ills”, which include pollution and tax pressure, as well as traffic regulations. The second objective is to limit Beijing’s population to 23 million inhabitants by 2020. Since 2013, this number has increased by 1.7%, hence reaching 21.5 million inhabitants today. In some of the city’s districts, the goal is to reduce this number by 15%. Lastly, this project is operating in a larger regional development framework aiming at promoting integration into the Jing-Jin-Ji project (Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei), which will form an urban cluster of 120 million inhabitants.
According to Caixin, this plan is also part of a new urban development project for Beijing, meant to correct the 2004-2020 blueprint which is, according to some experts, now obsolete. Almost 2 million inhabitants are expected to be transferred to Tongzhou, including 1 million civil servants.
This decision comes a few months after Xi Jinping’s declarations, who after a meeting on economic and financial affairs in February stated that Beijing city centre should reduce some administrative functions that are not correlated with its capital city status. The municipal government offices are currently located on Zhengyi Road, near Tiananmen Square, while other administrative organs are scattered over the city. Municipal entities will be relocated to the city outskirts, hence leaving the city centre to national ministries. Furthermore, public hospitals and campuses will be built, and state-owned enterprises are to be moved.
Theoretically to be completed in 2017, this plan is out of keeping with traditional Chinese urban planning. Since the mid-50s, similar projects have been regularly proposed, but they were all systematically rejected by previous governments.